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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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UW, Madison face bike parking crunch
UW-Madison Communications

Most people who commute by bicycle probably relish the fact that they don't have to worry about the hassle of parking a car.

But increasingly, Laura Schmidli is having trouble finding a place to stow her bike. Schmidli, a librarian who works at Wendt Commons next to Union South, recently documented her search for bike parking in a video she sent to UW Transportation Services.

Schmidli doesn't usually have a problem in the mornings, but she says, "If I'd leave in the middle of the day to go to a meeting and come back, there's absolutely no place to park my bike."

The video she made at 1:40 p.m. on a Wednesday shows just three open spaces near Union South, as well as eight illegally parked bikes.

Dar Ward, UW's commuter solutions manager, admits that the campus' racks are at times maxed out.

Ward says a recent survey found that 10,000 to 14,000 students and staff members bike to the campus each day. This doesn't count visitors.

The university now has bike-rack parking to accommodate 12,512 bikes.

"The number doesn't really get to the problem," Ward says. "Say we needed parking for 15,000 bikes. All 15,000 of those people aren't in the same place all day -- they're moving around. So you end up needing more than the total. We end up needing a lot in certain areas and not in others."

But, she adds, "We're trying to add as much as we can."

In the next three to five years, the university wants to increase parking capacity to 14,500. In addition, it is replacing racks that don't work well. Ward says it will also be looking to add high-capacity racks, which elevate every other bike slightly, making it easier to squeeze in more.

"We have a lot of competing interests on campus," she says. "You want sidewalk access for pedestrians, green space, benches, trees. Our campus is fairly compact, and urban space is limited."

Madison also has struggles with bike parking, particularly along State Street and the Capitol Square. Arthur Ross, the city's bicycling and pedestrian coordinator, doesn't have a count of city bike racks. But the city will soon put out bids for an extensive survey to see where bike-parking demand is high. The study will also gauge interest in using a bike storage station for a fee.

Ross warns that it is illegal to hitch a bike to some things, such as trees, stop signs and places that might interfere with access to buildings.

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